Jan 192015

Battle Honour on The Royal Green Jackets Cap Badge

The Second Anglo–Afghan War (Pashto: د افغان-انګرېز دويمه جګړه) was fought between the United Kingdom and the Emirate of Afghanistan from the year 1878 to 1880, when the latter was ruled by Sher Ali Khan of the Barakzai dynasty, the son of former Emir Dost Mohammad Khan. This was the second time British India invaded Afghanistan. The war ended after the British emerged victorious against the Afghan rebels and the Afghans agreed to let the British attain all of their geopolitical objectives from the Treaty of Gandamak. Most of the British and Indian soldiers withdrew from Afghanistan. The Afghans were permitted to maintain internal sovereignty but they had to cede control of their nation’s foreign relations to the British.


AfghanistanAfter tension between Russia and Britain in Europe ended with the June 1878 Congress of Berlin, Russia turned its attention to Central Asia. That same summer, Russia sent an uninvited diplomatic mission to Kabul. Sher Ali Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan, tried unsuccessfully to keep them out. Russian envoys arrived in Kabul on the 22nd of July 1878, and on the 14th of August, the British demanded that Sher Ali accept a British mission too.

The Amir not only refused to receive a British mission under Neville Bowles Chamberlain, but threatened to stop it if it were dispatched. Lord Lytton, the viceroy, ordered a diplomatic mission to set out for Kabul in September 1878 but the mission was turned back as it approached the eastern entrance of the Khyber Pass, triggering the Second Anglo–Afghan War.

First phase

A British force of about 40,000 fighting men, mostly British and Indians, was distributed into military columns which penetrated Afghanistan at three different points. An alarmed Sher Ali attempted to appeal in person to the Russian Tsar for assistance, but unable to do so, he returned to Mazari Sharif, where he died on the21st of February 1879.


With British forces occupying much of the country, Sher Ali’s son and successor, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, signed the Treaty of Gandamak in the May of 1879 to prevent a British invasion of the rest of the country. According to this agreement and in return for an annual subsidy and vague assurances of assistance in case of foreign aggression, Yaqub relinquished control of Afghan foreign affairs to Britain. British representatives were installed in Kabul and other locations, British control was extended to the Khyber and Michni passes, and Afghanistan ceded various North-West Frontier Province areas and Quetta to Britain. The British Army then withdrew.

However, on the 3rd of September 1879 an uprising in Kabul led to the slaughter of Sir Louis Cavagnari, the British representative, along with his guards, and staff – provoking the next phase of the Second Afghan War.

Second phase

Major General Sir Frederick Roberts led the Kabul Field Force over the Shutargardan Pass into central Afghanistan, defeated the Afghan Army at Char Asiab on the 6th of October 1879, and occupied Kabul two days later. Ghazi Mohammad Jan Khan Wardak, and a force of 10,000 Afghans, staged an uprising and attacked British forces near Kabul in the Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment in the December of 1879. Despite besieging the British garrison there, he failed to maintain the Siege of Sherpur, instead shifting focus to Roberts’ force, and this resulted in the collapse of this rebellion. Yaqub Khan, suspected of complicity in the massacre of Cavagnari and his staff, was obliged to abdicate. The British considered a number of possible political settlements, including partitioning Afghanistan between multiple rulers or placing Yaqub’s brother Ayub Khan on the throne, but ultimately decided to install his cousin Abdur Rahman Khan as emir instead

Ayub Khan, who had been serving as governor of Herat, rose in revolt, defeated a British detachment at the Battle of Maiwand in July 1880 and besieged Kandahar. Roberts then led the main British force from Kabul and decisively defeated Ayub Khan on the 1st of September at the Battle of Kandahar, bringing his rebellion to an end. Abdur Rahman had confirmed the Treaty of Gandamak, leaving the British in control of the territories ceded by Yaqub Khan and ensuring British control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy in exchange for protection and a subsidy.

Abandoning the provocative policy of maintaining a British resident in Kabul, but having achieved all their other objectives, the British withdrew.

Captured British and Indian soldiers

The British officer John Masters recorded in his autobiography that Afghan women in the North-West Frontier Province of British India during the Second Anglo-Afghan War would castrate non-Muslim soldiers who were captured, like British and Sikhs. They also used an execution method involving urine; Pathan women urinated into prisoner’s mouths. Captured British soldiers were spread out and fastened with restraints to the ground, then a stick, or a piece of wood was used to keep their mouth open to prevent swallowing. Pathan women then squatted and urinated directly into the mouth of the man until he drowned in the urine, taking turns one at a time.

Timeline of battles

There were several decisive actions in the Second Anglo–Afghan War, from 1878 to 1880. Here are the battles and actions in chronological order. An asterisk (*) indicates a clasp was awarded for that particular battle with the Afghanistan Medal.

Battle of Ali Masjid* (British victory)
Battle of Peiwar Kotal* (British victory)


Action at Takht-i-Pul (British victory)
Action at Matun (British victory)
Battle of Khushk-i-Nakud (British victory)
Battle of Fatehabad (British victory)
Battle of Kam Dakka (Afghan victory)
Battle of Charasiab* (British victory)
Battle of Shajui
Battle of Karez Mir
Battle of Takht-i-Shah
Battle of Asmai Heights* (Afghan victory)
Siege of Sherpur* (British victory)


Battle of Ahmed Khel* (British victory)
Battle of Arzu
Second Battle of Charasiab
Battle of Maiwand (Afghan victory)
Battle of Deh Koja (Afghan Victory)
Battle of Kandahar* (British victory)


Kandahar (and Afghanistan) Evacuation
Order of battle
Peshawar Valley Field Force Lieutenant General Sir Samuel Browne
Cavalry Brigade Brigadier General C. J. S. Gough
10th Hussars (2 Sqdns)
11th Probyn’s Lancers
Guides Cavalry
Royal Artillery
First Infantry Brigade Brigadier General H. T. Macpherson
4th Battalion Rifle Brigade
20th Brownlow’s Punjabis
4th Gurkha Rifles
Second Infantry Brigade Brigadier General J. A. Tytler
1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment
Queen’s Own Corps of Guides (infantry component)
51st Sikhs
Third Infantry Brigade Brigadier General F. Appleyard
81st North Lancashire Regiment
14th Sikhs
27th Punjabis
Fourth Infantry Brigade Brigadier General W. Browne
51st King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
6th Jat Light Infantry
45th Sikhs
Kurram Valley Field Force Major General Roberts
Cavalry Brigade Brigadier General Hugh Gough
10th Hussars (1 sqdn)
12th Cavalry
25th Cavalry
Royal Artillery Colonel A. H. Lindsay
First Infantry Brigade Brigadier General A. H. Cobbe
2nd Battalion, 8th Foot
23rd Pioneers
29th Punjabis
58th Vaughn’s Rifles
Second Infantry Brigade Brigadier General J. B. Thelwell
72nd Seaforth Highlanders
21st Punjabis
56th Rifles
5th Gurkha Rifles
Kandahar Field Force
First Division Lieutenant General Donald Stewart
Cavalry Brigade Brigadier General Walter Fane
15th Hussars
8th Cavalry
19th Fane’s Lancers
Royal Artillery Brigadier General C. G. Arbuthnot
First Infantry Brigade Brigadier General R. Barter
2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifles
15th Sikhs
25th Punjabis
Second Infantry Brigade Brigadier General W. Hughes
59th East Lancashire Regiment
12th Kelat-i-Ghilzai Regiment
1st Gurkha Rifles
3rd Gurkha Rifles
2nd Division Major General M A Biddulph
Cavalry Brigade Brigadier General C. H. Palliser
21st Daly’s Horse
22nd Sam Browne’s Horse
35th Scinde Horse
Artillery Colonel Le Mesurier
First Infantry Brigade Brigadier General R. Lacy
70th East Surrey Regiment
19th Punjabis
127th Baluchis
Second Infantry Brigade Brigadier General Nuttall
26th Punjabis
32nd Pioneers
55th Coke’s Rifles
129th Baluchis

Sourced from Wikipedia